BADGP Reviews: Puppeteer

 

Puppeteer (SCEA, SCE Japan Studio)

Released: September 10, 2013

December 27, 2013

Alex Linna

Review

What is Puppeteer?

Puppeteer is a 2D sidescrolling platformer for the Playstation 3.  This little first-party title was released somewhat unceremoniously in mid-September of 2013 at the budget price of $40.  I believe I can safely say that it is worth at least that as it wins the player over with its charm and inherent likeability.

The player takes the role of Kutaro, a puppet boy who has lost his soul to the Moon Bear King.  Kutaro is on a quest to regain his soul, as well as the souls of countless other children and restore peace and balance to the Moon once again.  His journey entails encountering every member of the Chinese zodiac in order to assemble the light moon stone and then confront the evil king.  Whether it is running up the backs of Snake and Dragon or dodging Tiger and Dog’s virulent attacks, Kutaro must reclaim the moon shards in order to resurrect the moon goddess. There are many allusions to Japanese culture, especially the entirety of the second act that features Taiko drums, sushi, and ninjas.

How Does it Look?

Puppeteer looks incredible.  Perhaps its greatest strength is its commitment to its exceptional presentation.  The game progresses as if it were a stage play with the set constantly changing and the actors even speak directly to the audience who gasp and applaud in turn.  The game oozes charm.  Kutaro and company traverse through many lush environments and diverse locations.  Though they may be typical video game fare (jungle, volcano, ice mountain, etc) there are some noteworthy locations such as the game’s take on a Halloween town a la Tim Burton, and a Alice in Wonderland style section where the player chases Rabbit who is clearly a stand-in for Carroll’s Mad Hatter.  It should also be stated that this game was clearly designed for 3D, as the myriad of cutscenes have the characters jumping at the player and what would be over the heads of the audience in their proposed theater.

 

How Does it Sound?

The voice acting in Puppeteer is phenomenal.  Most noteworthy is that of the angsty teenage sun princess Pikarita.  She speaks in modern language that gives an air of authenticity to her character and performance.  Her give and take with the LittleBigPlanet style narrator makes for some great moments and dialogue.  The music is also noteworthy and is largely orchestral and sets the tone nicely.  The pirate ship music is among my favorite.

How Does it Play?

Puppeteer cuts its own niche in the platforming genre.  Aside from the presentational differences, Puppeteer is not the tightest platformer, but makes up for it by Kutaro having a nifty pair of scissors named Calibrus.  These combined blades can cut through most obstacles and give Kutaro momentum forward and compose his primary form of transportation.  There are other sections that break up the more typical 2D sidescrolling sections that take the player on horseback and involve jumping over and avoiding obstacles.  A final form of gameplay arises in the bonus levels that are collecting missions.  The collectables in the games are moon pieces, one hundred of which grant the player another life. Other collectables include “heads.”  Kutaro has quite literally “lost his head” and uses those that he finds as a substitute.  He may have up to three heads at a time and each head has a unique action that might be required to find specific secrets.  His heads also act as a life bar and when he runs out he is dead.  Once hit he may attempt to recover them before they disappear.

 

How Does it Compare?

At times, Puppeteer feels as though it is the results of the best LittleBigPlanet created levels and many comparisons may be drawn between the two Sony exclusives.  The announcers sound uncannily similar although are not the same person.  They are both 2D sidescrolling platformers.  Both have top-notch presentation and are incredibly charming.  Both have silent protagonists.  Both actually are not that precise of platformers.  Puppeteer’s gameplay can get a little stale and formulaic, but everything surrounding the gameplay elevates it to being something spectacular.

The Recommendation

Though Puppeteer is not a best-in-class platformer like Super Meat Boy, Rayman Legends, or New Super Mario Bros., it does enough different to make it notable and memorable.  The voice casts’ performances are excellent, the presentation is amazing, and the look and sound of the game are distinct and wonderfully pleasing the senses.  Puppeteer skews a little young, but remains engaging.  It has a Disney-style musical number, a pirate who speaks nearly exclusively in suggestive innuendo, and a full act of the game that would make Tim Burton proud.  For as largely unimpressive the gameplay may become, the “everything else” makes Puppeteer worth a look for anyone who enjoys platformers or that Disney-like magic.

Score:

7.9 out of 10

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